13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

By Ankit Verma

Mailed on January 19, 2016

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Dear Christian Black
Still Photographer

Dear Christian,

Your job on set is to capture hi-res images during filming to be used in promotional materials. For 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, it seems like every piece of promo circulating is a tribute to John Krasinski’s transformation from mischievous Office heart-throb into a rugged, muscular army man.

I can tell you’re a passionate photographer who provides a solid selection of images for any film or TV show you’re a part_ of. Unfortunately for you, most of your images were presumably scrapped in favor of highlighting Krasinski’s new-found identity as a tough-as-nails leading man. Which is a shame, because I’m sure_ _you busted your ass while braving the Libyan heat to capture striking images that would represent the realities of warfare in a city on the brink of revolution.

I waited for the screening of 13 Hours to begin, alongside old, bearded men and college bros — who I suppose are the expected crowd at a Michael Bay biopic about six military operatives fighting off hordes of guerrilla fighters in war-torn Benghazi, Libya. I wondered what the film would do for John Krasinski’s career. Would it do what Taken did for Liam Neeson? Or what John Wick did for Keanu Reeves? The answer is neither. Once the rat-a-tat finally begins, one thing is evident, or not evident as the case may be—John Krasinski is nowhere to be found.

As our brave operatives mow down baddies from their rooftop advantage, I couldn’t help but notice Krasinski’s absence. It is only after the final bullet shell clinks against the concrete, and the smoke clears that he pops his face back into focus, covered in sweat as if he did something. This was a recurring theme throughout the film; any time the heat gets turned up, our hero is invisible. At most, the only time you see Krasinski jump into the fray is when he runs into a burning consulate to try and rescue the U.S. Ambassador.

Was all the media focus on Krasinski purposeful? Only you and the rest of the cast and crew can vouch for that. All I know is I took offence at this misrepresentation, because after viewing 13 Hours, Krasinski couldn’t have been more useless.

The spotlight should have been on the true main characters; Rone and Tonto, who carried the film during its most pivotal parts. The exhaustion on their faces was believable—and warranted. 13 Hours isn’t comprised of A-list actors, so any one of the other five men featured could have been the focal point and I wouldn’t have cared. It was the promotional positioning of 13 Hours as the “John Krasinski Show”—and how that was completely untrue—that tarnished the experience for me.

To make matters worse, 13 Hours is two hours of military glorification and rampant patriotism. The type of fodder that would be played at a GOP rally. I couldn’t help but think of the infamous scene in Inglorious Basterds where Adolf Hitler and his Nazi sympathizers howl and applaud at the movie screen as Fredrick Zoller levels a wave of Allied troops from his clocktower. It is this brainwashed sense of heroism featured in 13 Hours that make Benghazi seem like a Call of Duty victory, rather than the actual events in which the U.S. government treated these brave men as expendable resources.

I’m not surprised that Michael Bay chose to focus on the ground combat at Benghazi rather than on boardroom politics. It’s his bread and butter. But I was surprised about how the only time we really see Krasinski provide anything of value_ _is in one of your photos.



P.S. It’s funny that ‘Boon’, one of the six elite soldiers, was more prevalent during the action sequences than our lead. As you know, he just happened to be played by David Denman, AKA, Roy from The Office, AKA, Pam’s ex-beau who was dumped in favor of, yep, you guessed it, John Krasinski.

I think Pam should have stuck with her first option.

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